A look at the pressures coaches face after Appleton East basketball coach resigns

Local News

Appleton East High School boys’ basketball head coach John Mielke has resigned after 18 seasons leading the team, and a recent confrontation brought on by players’ parents may be to blame. 

According to the Appleton Post Crescent, parents of players on the team had approached Mielke in a bar after Appleton East lost to Appleton West last Friday.

The newspaper reports that the parents had complained to Mielke about his season’s 4-10 record, and said he was too hard on the players. 

Appleton East High School principal Matthew Mineau did not return calls requesting for an on-camera interview, but in a statement posted online, the school says they are “surprised and saddened” by his resignation. 

Local 5 caught up with St. Norbert men’s basketball head coach Gary Grzesk, who has known Mielke for decades, to learn more about the pressures of coaching.

“Over the years we’ve recruited a number of his players at Appleton East, and you could see that the kids played really hard for him, they played with a lot of discipline, played very intelligent, and typically overachieved, he always had a certain level of talent, but he always got the most out of their ability,” Grzesk said of Mielke. 

The season had not been going well for Mielke this year with a losing record.

“He was really into developing kids as young adults, not just about winning games,” Grzesk said. “So, just because he didn’t have a great record this year doesn’t mean he isn’t an excellent teacher and coach, because he is.”

One barrier high school coaches face is that they cannot recruit players the way colleges can.

Instead, they have to adjust to the talent pool that lives in the district, which is always changing.

“I think there’s gonna be more and more turnover where coaches just get burnt out from the pressure, they don’t want to deal with the parents, and a lot of it is just unrealistic expectations,” Grzesk said.

There’s no sign of those high expectations on high school coaches letting up, either.

“You know there were times where you would see coaches at the high school level have the time of career that  John Mielke had, that stayed at a school for twenty, thirty years and had great careers,  and a lot of support,” Grzesk said. “I think the time where coaches are staying at one school for that length of time, I’m not sure you’re going to see that anymore and it’s really unfortunate because we’re losing some great coaches within the state.”

Grzesk says parents should keep in mind their players’ talent level, and not to push all the blame on the coach.

“Hopefully parents are pretty realistic about the abilities of those kids at that age,” Grzesk said. “To see that pressure get to him and force him to retire and give something up that he loves to do is really unfortunate.”

Assistant Coach Steve Coenen will take over the Appleton East head coach position for the rest of the season. 

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